Love letters to Paris from French Open stars

Each year over 16 million tourists flock to the “City of Love.” Be it food, art or architecture, Paris has it all.

But, for over a century, the French capital has also played host to perhaps the most grueling tournament in tennis.

Roland Garros: an annual two-week battle of attrition to find the last man and woman standing on clay.

“I love Paris,” says Rafael Nadal, champion on nine occasions. “The emotion that I have there is difficult to describe.”

“Every time that I am able to be back on this court brings me back to the past — back to amazing moments that I had there. It’s a magical place.”

It’s not difficult to trace the root of Nadal’s affection, with the “King of Clay” bidding for an unprecedented 10th Roland Garros title.

But he also revels in the city itself, “where just walking around everything is beautiful.”

Montmartre’s allure

World No. 3 Karolína Plíšková shares Nadal’s love of the Parisian streets.

From her first senior grand slam tournament in 2012 to today, the Czech 25-year-old has visited “many times, every year.”

“I like the Eiffel Tower,” Plíšková tells CNN Sport. “That’s something I do every year, even if I was already there 10 times already.

“I just try to go to some places which I like,” she adds, commending the city’s range of restaurants and particularly the historic neighborhood of Montmartre.

While Plíšková proudly displays a portrait drawn at the Place du Tertre at her home in Monaco, fellow top 10 stars Svetlana Kuznetsova and Simona Halep can’t get enough of the shopping.

“I’m staying in the center next to Champs-Élysees where there are lots of stores,” says Kuznetsova, a French Open finalist in 2009.

“It’s nice to walk along the River Seine. Everywhere in the center is nice.”

It seems Halep agrees, picking out “the big street with the shops” as her favorite Parisian destination.

“I feel the freedom there and I enjoy a lot just walking,” says the world No. 3.

Most intimate grand slam

It’s clear tennis players are not averse to a spot of tourism on their days off in the French capital.

Milos Raonic calls it “a fantastic city,” suggesting the history on show further “romanticizes” the tournament.

But no major is complete without the fans

“I think it’s probably — alongside Wimbledon — the most intimate grand slam,” Raonic tells CNN Sport.

“The French fans have a way of supporting the underdog, which is sometimes different from other grand slams so there’s a lot of excitement throughout the course of two weeks.”

“The fans are definitely different,” Plíšková says. “The area is quite small so you have fewer people around you and you can really see that they’re really cheering for you and supporting you.”

Novak Djokovic treasures that support.

“I kind of consider it the home grand slam in a way,” the Serb tells CNN Sport. “I grew up on clay and practiced basically all my life on clay. So I am very familiar with that surface.

The defending champion feels as if it was “only yesterday” he secured the elusive career grand slam but looks forward to another opportunity to “shine and make history.”

“In this sport we have four world championships a year … four opportunities,” says Djokovic.

“Whoever wins a grand slam gets his name written with the golden letters in the history books of tennis.”

For Djokovic, the Roland Garros Arena is “in the middle of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”

Winners usually head to the Eiffel Tower for the obligatory photo call to secure that perfect picture following the weekend of the finals for the season’s second grand slam.

What better place to show off La Coupe des Mousquetaires or La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen?